While a successful acting career has alluded her, save her Golden Globe-winning turn as Evita, that hasn’t stopped Madonna from trying her hand at directing. Her behind-the-camera debut, Filth and Wisdom (released by IFC Films, watch the trailer here) opens tomorrow in Los Angeles and is already playing in New York City.
The good news: it isn’t as unwatchable or as downright laughable as some of the films Madonna has starred in. She has assembled a pretty good if no-name cast (apart from Richard E. Grant) for this London-set tale about political-sexual expatriates trying to achieve their dreams of success. Madonna also has a good command of the technical dimensions of filmmaking, and she is well-aided here by director of photography Tim Maurice Jones and editor Russell Icke.
The bad news: Madonna’s skill as a screenwriter leaves a lot to be desired. There’s hardly a cliché unturned in the dialogue (“There is duality in everything”), and the script (co-written by Dan Cadan) seems built upon a laundry list of Madonna’s longtime obsessions: fetishes, sex, music, sex, cross-dressing, sex, dance, sex and class/religious distinctions. Actually, no sex is depicted in Filth and Wisdom — unless you count a guy in schoolboy attire getting spanked by his role-playing “headmaster” — but the topic overshadows everything else.
In the end, Filth and Wisdom is neither all that filthy nor wise, and its characters and story aren’t particularly memorable. However, it offers a glimmer of hope that Madonna may yet achieve cinematic glory … but behind the camera and not in front of it.
UPDATE: Filth and Wisdom is now available on DVDfrom Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.